Denver officer cleared in fatal August shooting of knife-wielding man

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DENVER — A Denver police officer was cleared in the fatal shooting of a knife-wielding man in August, the Denver District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.

Terry Lee Salazar, 49, died in the Aug. 27 encounter in a home near West Ellsworth Avenue and Fox Street in the city’s Baker neighborhood.

Four arrest warrants were out on him: Two for felony drug offenses, one for domestic violence assault and failing to appear in court for a traffic offense.

RELATED: District attorney’s decision letter

Salazar told two officers to shoot and kill him, saying “I’m not going to prison” and “just kill me, shoot me” as he moved toward them with the knife, the district attorney’s office said.

Officer Antony Gutierrez-McKain shot Salazar five times. Salazar was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The evidence shows that Officer Gutierrez-McKain was clearly acting in self-defense,” according to a letter by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and sent to police chief Robert White in announcing the decision that the shooting was legally justified.

“No witness or evidence contradicts or disputes this. Therefore, criminal charges are not legally or ethically appropriate and will not be filed.”

According to the letter, police went to the home about 3 a.m. after Salazar stabbed a roommate in the chest and cut his arm. A woman also living in the home told police that Salazar was wanted.

After Gutierrez-McKain and officer Sean Kelly arrived, Salazar came outside, then ran up the stairs into a small bedroom with the woman when he saw police, the letter said.

The officers heard the woman scream and when they entered the room, they saw Salazar with a large black knife, the letter said.

Salazar began to swing the knife. Gutierrez-McKain told Salazar to put down the knife, but he refused. Kelly then fired a stun gun at Salazar that briefly stopped him before he “continue(d) his aggression, still wielding the knife,” the letter said.

After the confrontation moved into a hallway, Salazar yelled that he was going to get a gun. Salazar then moved toward Gutierrez-McKain with the knife.

“Put the knife down. I don’t want to shoot you,” Gutierrez-McKain told Salazar, according to the letter.

Gutierrez-McKain was backed up to a wall and when Salazar did not follow commands, he opened fired, killing Salazar. Gutierrez-McKain told investigators he believed Salazar was about two arm lengths away when he fired.

The letter said an autopsy found Salazar had methamphetamine and amphetamine in his blood at the time of the confrontation.

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